A particularly ugly case of illegal dumping just west of Qualicum Beach is part of a $200,000 annual problem.
“This is an area we know there’s been dumping in the past, there is history there,” said Regional District of Nanaimo (RDN) Manager of Solid Waste Services Larry Gardner of a pile at the end of Claymore Road, near the Little Qualicum Fish Hatchery.
“I know we did a clean up there in 2015, it was a fair bit of material,” he said, highlighting nearby ‘No Dumping’ signs they’d erected.
Though the surrounding forested area is well used, with many other bits of garbage and signs of human activity, one high profile pile has appeared over the last two or three weeks, which the RDN became aware of on April 13.
Gardner hadn’t been to the site recently, but saw photos and heard from the attending bylaw officer and said that reports of medical waste appear to be exaggerated.
“There did appear to be IV related materials, but from what I saw it didn’t actually meet the definition of medical waste,” he said there aren’t “any materials like needles or blood-borne materials, but it came from that kind of activity.”
“It was a mix of different materials,” he said. “There is a significant quantity, but there isn’t anything identified as an immediate hazard or threat that we need to jump on right away.”
The pile — several pick-up truck loads worth — included old clothing, electronics, paint cans, car parts and random household waste.
“In general we don’t really like to clean up private land, but we do do some of it, especially when it’s been ongoing,” he said, pointing out it is expensive for tax payers to have the RDN clean it.
He said they try to work with the land owners, which in this case he believes to be Island Timberland, who they have a close working relationship with.
“Landowners do have responsibility to try to minimize dumping and the forest companies do put in a concerted effort for policing and clean up of sites.”
And that clean up is important, he said. “We like to get sites cleaned up as quick as we can because once someone has dumped material, it seems to be easier for the next load to come. My suspicion is, it’s easier for people to rationalize — it’s already a mess.”
The RDN responds to anywhere from 50 to 150 cases of illegal dumping a year, Gardner said, and the number of community organized cleanups has been increasing.
The RDN waves tipping fees for those community efforts, which he said amounts to $20,000 to $50,000 a year, but they still save the RDN a lot of money.
“There were 17 community clean ups last year, which was fabulous, less for us to do.”
He estimated between tipping fees, staff time, bylaw officer responses and investigations, cleanups and signage, illegal dumping costs the RDN “well over $100,000 a year, closer to $200,000.
“If we can identify the responsible party, we’ll carry out an investigation, potentially get them, either to clean it up, or there’s the ability for fines,” he said. They start at $150 and range all the way up to criminal charges.
“Quite often when we are able to contact somebody who’s waste it is, that can be a pretty effective message,” he said, adding that there have been cases where a person’s garbage was dumped by someone else, a hired crew or young family member, for example.
Report illegal dumping, with as many details as possible, to the Report All Poachers and Polluters (RAPP) line at 1-877-952-7277.